Blending art and language has a way of drawing the eye; the beauty captures and the language captivates. When I first saw Lesley of Swell Made Co.’s prints I was immediately drawn to the beauty and simplicity of each print, the best part about it was that when I got a bit closer I was completely taken by her wit. But the cherry on top, was getting to know Lesley and her story. There is an honesty and sincerity to her story that tugged at my heartstrings. She’s real and so are the messages she sends through her collection of art prints.
“Be Kind to yourself and others.”
I love the powerful force behind this simplistic message; less truly is more when it comes to human kindness, language and art. This beautiful and bold print has taken up a prime piece of real estate in our tiny home and for good reason. It’s a gentle reminder to us each day and its placement (right beside the coffee maker in a spot that is often flooded with light in the morning) is exactly where it needs to be. There is something about starting your day on a positive note, thinking about others, but also considering your own well being, that can make for a good day. My hope is for this message to be passed on to my little ones and become a part of their everyday experience too. I am so excited to introduce Lesley of Swell Made Co. as this month’s Creative Career Mom. From one mompreneur to another this is a story that brought tears to my eyes and reminded me to “give myself permission to follow my heart”. I can’t wait to share her story with all of you!
- For me, paper is personal, I love my journal, paper calendar and cards are so dear to me. In the age of technological transformation keeping a touch of personal is so important. Can you tell us a bit more about your love of stationery and how that grew into this beautiful business?
My love for paper and printing runs deep. I’ve always loved stationery and the act of writing personal, handwritten notes. It never goes out of style. Combining that love, with over a decade of practicing graphic design/art direction, I decided to create my own collection of stationery in 2014. It’s been a labour of love that has brought me so much happiness ever since. My brand features a simple and modern style, with a bit of wit and gold.
- I love minimalist design and Swell Made Co.’s signature simple with a touch of gold takes stationery to a whole new level. What was the inspiration behind your design style?
It’s taken me years to cultivate my signature style. As a graphic designer/art director, you’re often required to create things that really push you out of your element (good and bad). After working through a body work and letting go of things that didn’t fit, I realized I had my own signature style that could be developed as a brand.
My inspiration comes from all kinds of design (graphic, Scandinavian, and interior), typography and urban living. I love to create thoughtful and functional pieces that are modern and simple. Intentionally neutral and timeless, they’re waiting for the customer’s personal touch. Whether it’s a piece of stationery, gift or art print for their space.
- The mixture of art and wit makes Swell Made so fantastic! The phrases make me smile and the artistry adds such beauty and dimension to any space! What drives these creative combinations?
Great question! My style is in part, influenced by contrast. Personally, I’m an introverted extrovert; I love big cities just as much as serene and peaceful landscapes. My gift wish list includes Lego and lipstick. You get the idea. Simple contrasts make anything more interesting and fun.
When you see stationery that says “BOOYAH” in gold foil, with a simple minimalist design… that’s a bit of my subtle humour and playfulness coming through. The pieces are designed thoughtfully to make a statement.
- Like so many creatives, you made a career change based on passion and a desire to do what you love! Can you tell us a bit more about this and that ‘ah ha’ moment when you decided to make the change?
Creating a collection of stationery was something I had always dreamed of, but it wasn’t until my second child was born that I decided to finally take the leap. There’s nothing like the “efficiency hack” of being a parent that will help you realize how precious time is. I evaluated what I was doing with that time and realized it was now or never. Tired of the grind, I wanted to do something I was passionate about. It sounds cliché, but it was time to make that dream, a reality. Even if it meant starting small. No dream is too small.
- As a mompreneur you know all about the “nap-time hustle” and burning the midnight oil. How did you make all of this work when you were starting your business?
I had help! Raising little people, having a career, and maintaining your own well-being and relationships is no joke. Before launching Swell Made Co. I had (and still have) a thriving career as a freelance graphic designer. Carving out time to launch a collection of stationery and new brand wasn’t easy. I made sure I had help. Help comes in many forms. Finding the right balance for your family is tricky, but necessary to dedicate the time and focus your work deserves. I found loving care for my kids during the day so I could work, and dedicated afternoons and evenings for my family and myself. Sure, there are times when I still work weekends and evenings, but that’s part of the game and beauty of being my own boss.
- Your creative vision is clear, unique and recognizable. I know a Swell Made piece when I see one! How do you keep this beautiful brand consistent and cohesive?
Edit, edit, edit. As I work through new collections for Swell Made Co. I thoughtfully design and curate them to make sure they fit within the brand that my customers have come to know and love. Swell Made Co. and the pieces themselves are always evolving, but I always come back to why I started, to ground my decision-making. To create products that are simple, beautiful and witty or light hearted.
- Being a mompreneur can have many challenges (like the elusive “mom guilt”) how do you find a way to get over these and find a balance between your personal life and business? What advice would you offer mothers hoping to start a business or working towards their creative goals?
Work hard and do what you love. Your time is so limited as a mom, so make sure what time you have left, is well spent. We all have a unique set of challenges. Maybe you’re juggling a family and multiple jobs. Maybe you’re making a career shift to meet the demands of a family. We’re all doing the best we can, right?
Balance is an elusive and nuanced thing; so just do what works for you. Dedicate the time to your passion, work hard and it will fall into place when the time is right. Trust me, once you’ve made the leap and are making strides, nothing will stop you. Plus, I truly believe that doing what you love and working hard sends an incredibly powerful message to your kids. One day they’ll realize just how much their mama loved them and herself. Give yourself permission to follow your heart.